Saints could be hitting stride for NFL stretch run

Ed Daniels  Bizarre thinking it might be, but …
  The Saints have an outside chance of equaling their win total from their Super Bowl championship season. And, if they do, they could still be the third seed in the NFC playoffs.
    It’s just of question of whether the Green Bay Packers are the first or the second seed in the NFC playoffs. Thanks to Green Bay’s win over the Saints in the season opener, New Orleans would have to win out and the Packers lose four for the Saints to overtake Green Bay.
    The 49ers look solid as either the one or two seed. San Francisco has four NFC games remaining, but they are all games inside the NFC West; the worst division in football. The 49ers play the Rams twice and Arizona and Seattle.
    The Saints’ running the table isn’t out of the question. Going into Monday night’s game against the Giants, the Saints are unbeaten at home. Four of the last six games are at home. And, the Saints’ two road trips are back-to-back winnable games in December at Tennessee and Minnesota.
    Don’t be surprised if the Falcons make the playoffs, too. Other than a Dec. 26 Monday night game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Falcons’ toughest game down the stretch appears to be at Houston Dec. 4. But, the Texans will play the rest of the season without injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub.
    Even though the Bears have won five straight, quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand and will be out for the season. And, four of Chicago’s last six are on the road, including Christmas night at Green Bay.
    The Lions have a ton of tough games down the stretch, including road games at New Orleans, Oakland and Green Bay.
    The Cowboys still have to play the Giants twice and Philadelphia. But, then again, these are the Cowboys, who always find a way to underachieve.
    That the Saints are 7-3 is a testament to Drew Brees, and, and …
    I am trying to find another group to which to give credit.
    But, through 10 games the Saints were 7-3 despite being minus-5 in the giveaway/takeway department. The Saints had won seven games despite allowing 5.2 yards per opposition rush attempt.
    Heading into the games of the weekend of Nov. 19, only 11 teams had allowed more yards per game than the Saints.
    The Saints had only one blowout win, 62-7 against the Colts, and two very puzzling losses, at Tampa Bay and (a real mind-blower) at St. Louis.
    There is still a ton of football left to be played. An educated guess says the Saints are home Saturday Jan. 7, two days before the BCS championship in the Superdome.
    And, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the opponent was the Atlanta Falcons. Somehow, playing the Falcons in the first round doesn’t seem like much of a reward.    
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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